247. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson 0


  • East-West Negotiations and the Erhard Visit

The background papers (Part III, Tabs A, B and C, of the big book)1 give you the standard U.S. position. They fudge very sharp differences of judgment and opinion within the Department of State, but in the main they do give you the Rusk/Ball line. But you should know that Tommy Thompson, who is subtle, and Averell Harriman, who is blunt, both think the time is ripe for a much more forthcoming negotiating position. Thompson thinks the Germans could and would join with us; Harriman thinks they should be forced to. Thompson may influence Rusk before Friday’s briefing session.2

My own belief is this meeting you will not wish to give Erhard either the rigid feeling of the Rusk/Ball position or the sense of insistence on movement that they might get from Harriman (or from Senator Pell). What you want is to lay a basis for serious work in the future on these views. For this purpose what the Chancellor needs to know from you—preferably in a private meeting—is that:

You have no intention whatever of using German interests to make a bargain with Khrushchev over Erhard’s head;
You have great confidence in the basic strength and bargaining position of the West;

You do believe that over the long pull we should be constantly examining the kind of bargain we want in order to improve the position of the people of East Germany and the city of Berlin. This is a matter of simple justice and also one of reducing dangers to world peace.

In this connection you could well praise Erhard for the Christmas agreement on the Wall, and suggest a reference to it in the Communiqué. (This will help put Erhard on the side of “porosity,” if he agrees.)

You understand this problem in deeply political terms and would like very much to have a solid understanding of Erhard’s political assessment both with respect to German opinion and with respect to the German-Soviet relations. In particular you are interested in his view [Page 653] of the ways and means of bargaining with the Soviets on these central issues.

I think this last point is essential. In the end this is an issue for Heads of Government, and if you and Erhard have confidence in each other on fundamentals, you can safely turn to the experts for plans in every different sharp and flat. The file cases are full of them.

And on this basis you could safely refer the matter to further expert analysis of the sort which Schroeder has proposed and which Rusk has accepted for our side. Indeed Schroeder’s proposal is one we welcome, although there is always a danger that the Germans will go rigid on us.

McG. B. 3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Aides Files, Bundy, Chron. Secret. Another memorandum from Bundy dated December 27, containing talking points for Erhard’s visit, is published in Declassified Documents, 1979, 471A.
  2. A set of the background papers for the Erhard visit is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 2353–2355.
  3. No record of the briefing session on December 27 has been found.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.